Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Winners...and losers

Gov.-elect Christopher Christie (R-NJ)

Gov-elect Bob McDonnell (R-VA)

Hoping for different results...

Not the governor of Virginia, Creigh Deeds (D)

Soon-to-be former gov. Jon Corzine (D-NJ)

How important were today’s elections in California, New Jersey, New York and Virginia?
It depends who you ask.

Earlier in the day, “facing the possibility of Democratic losses in Tuesday’s gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey, the White House downplayed the significance of the contests Monday, saying they were not a good barometer for future elections and would have little impact on the next campaign cycle. ‘I don’t think that these elections will portend a lot for what happens in 2010,’ said press secretary Robert Gibbs.”

Of course that answer was a given, considering it looked like the two biggest prizes – the governor’s offices in NJ and VA – were about to swing from Democrat to Republican.

And just as polls predicted, the GOP candidates turned Blue into Red.

In New Jersey, as the New York Times reports, “Christopher J. Christie, a Republican former United States attorney who said he would vanquish corruption from the halls of New Jersey government, won the New Jersey governor’s race on Tuesday, defeating the incumbent, Gov. Jon S. Corzine, and striking a blow against the Democratic party on a national stage.”

The Grand Old Party also marched to victory in a state that had squarely gone Dem when Barack Obama was being elected just a year ago. “In Virginia, Robert F. McDonnell, a former state attorney general, defeated the Democratic candidate, R. Creigh Deeds,” and the GOP also took the lieutenant governor’s and state controller’s offices. As the NY Times put it ever so bluntly, it was “a stark reversal of fortune for Democrats who have held control in Richmond for the past eight years.”

The other big race, NY’s 23rd Congressional District appears to have been wrested from the GOP after a hold of more than one hundred years. The NY Times also reported that, “Bill Owens, the Democrat, defeated an upstart Conservative party candidate, Douglas L. Hoffman, who had gained support from prominent conservatives like former Gov. Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich. A more moderate Republican nominee withdrew from the race days before the election, after pressure from national officials. Mr. Hoffman conceded the race.”

And in California, the least-anticipated contest of the night went to “Democratic Lt. Gov. John Garamendi ran away from four other candidates in a special election to fill the Bay Area's 10th Congressional District seat vacated by Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Walnut Creek,” according to The San Francisco Chronicle.

So what does it all mean?

While Republicans are quick to point to the gubernatorial results in NJ and VA as referendums on the Obama reign, many polls show him to be enjoying a level of support very close to the same numbers that ushered him into office. Nonetheless, the Associated Press sees the results as an omen for the administration and Democratic Party, reporting, “President Barack Obama invested heavily in the race, campaigning with Corzine five times on three separate visits. A Republican captured the only other governor's race in the country, in Virginia, a troubling sign for Obama heading into next year's midterm elections.” And according to the NY Times’ report on the Virginia gubernatorial race, “In 2008, 53 percent of voters backed Mr. Obama, and exit polls on Tuesday showed that 48 percent of voters approved of his performance.”

So what's the impact Obama & Co.'s big agenda?

Well, it doesn’t make their jobs any easier.

They did gain a seat in the already Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, which doesn’t tip the balance for them on any issue. And if political coattails are a truism then it means Obama’s have shortened, considerably. Neither McDonnell’s Virginia win nor Christie’s NJ victory mean anything changes in the immediate.

There’s a multitude of political lifetimes between here and the next big set of elections, but with health insurance reform delayed and Afghanistan appearing mired in politics and indecision, these big losses won’t help our young, untested president or his plans.

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